A Deal is a Deal
Written by Rick Archer, May 2005
Updated in January 2006
2006 Overview on this Article.
2005 was the
toughest year of my adult life. 14 months ago my Number Two
employee suddenly quit.
That left me, Marla (my new wife of one month), and my Head Registrar
scrambling to pick up the pieces. The sudden strain on all three of us
Two months later - one year ago as I write today - the added pressure of
scrambling to pick up the pieces got to my new Number Two most important
employee, the Head Registrar, also suddenly quit. Later in 2005 I
lost two more extremely valuable employees as well.
Marla and I kept picking up more responsibilities as they came available
because for the short run we had no other choice. Nevertheless one
misery after another came to visit me as well as my wife Marla in 2005.
One of the biggest contributors to my stress was a constant daily
struggle to deal with one customer after another who wanted to change
the Deal after the Fact. The complaints and problems seemed
For the previous twenty years, I had hired other people to handle the
day-to-day administrative duties. But now with the sudden defections,
Marla had enough on her plate already. I couldn't risk her breaking down
too (which as it turned it out, she nearly did), so this role became
I wrote this article basically for four reasons:
First, I wanted to understand why I was literally going NUTS dealing
with all the email complaints.
Second, I had to get a better handle on where to draw the line so that
we were fair to our customers and to ourselves at the same time. This is
a lot trickier than you might imagine.
Third, I wrote this article in self-defense. In May 2005 I met the
strongest challenge to the SSQQ Refund Policy in my career when two MBA
students demanded a Refund. As a way of sorting out my thoughts, I
included their story as a "Case Study" in this article. This battle
royal became so intense I eventually wrote an entire story about this
Finally, I used writing this article as a way to get a clear idea which
of our policies was still fair and which of our policies needed to be
changed. Writing this article proved to be very helpful in that regard.
To my knowledge, only one person has actually ever read this article and
that was because I asked her to. However, even though I assume my
story here has been largely disregarded, writing "A Deal is a Deal"
was still a valuable move for me indeed.
For example, as I reviewed it today 7 months further down the road, I
realize half a dozen major changes in SSQQ Policy in 2005 came about
based on decisions made as I wrote this lengthy article.
On a personal note, it is also a testimony to the importance of
"weathering a storm". You always have to keep fighting.
RA, January 2006
MAY 2005 - SO WHY AM I SO MISERABLE?
Written by Rick Archer
2005, my Head Registrar quit unexpectedly. I was forced to take over her
duties. Over the next five months, quite frankly I was appalled at how
ineffective our ancient rules and policies were at handling the sheer
volume of email. Our studio policies had become so complex,
contradictory, and outdated that students were forced to email for
practically every problem to get clarification or to simply find the web
page that answered their question. In addition I was astonished at
the constant rudeness and whining in the emails. But nothing prepared me
for the sheer volume of people who expected to get money back after they
changed their minds.
SSQQ has been doing a thriving business for 30
years. Even though we are successful, I did not been
smile as much as I used to
because Year 2005 was notable for one series of Refund and Policy
Arguments after another.
because the studio has grown so big, it lacks the personal touch it once
had and people don't become quite as connected to the place
as when it was smaller.
And perhaps email
makes it easier to complain than arguing on the phone. In particular
lately I have been getting a lot of complaints about "Refunds".
For some reason I have never been able to develop a skin thick enough that
will tune out the Refund complaints. I get so aggravated over them! Some
complaints are valid; I will be the first to admit that.
We move quickly
to handle the reasonable complaints. For example, this week one of our
cruise customer's credit card was charged $13,000 for his trip instead of
$1,300. It wasn't our fault - the cruise line did it - but we still handled that problem as fast as
I hate to argue about Refund money, so I
developed three strategies
I will argue if I have to, but I would
much prefer not to argue at all. Even if I "win" the argument, I hate the
bad feelings on both sides and I hate investing my free time in a fight
not of my choosing.
All battles have a cost.
Therefore over the years I have developed three strategies to try to avoid
- First, I make the ssqq rules regarding refunds clear
from the start.
- Second, I give people an hour to take their dance
class to help them make up their minds.
- Third, I give people their money back without rancor
or hesitation if they change their minds during what we call the "Grace
ONE HOUR GRACE PERIOD
We happen to think our dance classes are fun and effective, but we openly
acknowledge it is impossible to structure our classes so that we please
Therefore during the first week of each dance semester we give our
customers a one-hour "Grace Period" to see whether they like their class
enough to be willing to continue. This allows the students to actually
take the class they have signed up for and evaluate whether it is right
for them. Please note this offer is the same regardless of whether you
sign up through On-Line, Leisure Learning, or Walk-in Registration.
ONE HOUR IS PLENTY OF TIME
FOR THE MAJORITY OF OUR STUDENTS
From: C A - Houston, TX
Sent: Monday, November 01, 2004 9:58 AM
Subject: Private Lessons
I have tried your group lessons and did not feel comfortable dancing
with strange women, nor did I like my wife dancing with someone else, so
we left after the first hour and got our money back.
We want lessons so that WE can dance together, not with others. We
didn't learn a thing from your group lesson and did not enjoy it at all
so we have not been back for 2 years.
Can you give us Private lessons
for the 2 step, waltz, country whip etc. - when and how much and how
long are the lessons.
As I have said repeatedly, we give people their money
back without fuss or feathers when they play by the stated rules. Group
Lessons are not for everyone as the gentleman above clearly indicates.
If a customer decides they are not happy with their dance class, they can
cancel the deal right on the spot. We pay a Registration person
specifically to wait till the end of Break so she can give a refund to any
customer that asks for one. We generally get at least
one or two people a
night who indeed ask for their money back, but not many do.
does indeed ask, we give the money back without anger, argument, or
attitude. You have my word on that.
THERE HAS TO BE A TIME LIMIT TO OUR GENEROSITY
We begin to have a problem when people
stay in their class past the one-hour "Grace
Period", then expect us to bend our rules for
them after the fact.
Once the second hour of class begins, your registration is legal and
binding. Please note if you signed up On-line or via LLU and there is a
parallel class, this policy applies to the first meeting of the first
We give you ONE HOUR to change your mind.
After that hour, we will continue to deliver the service we promised every
day of every week - we show up on time to teach the dance class you signed
up for. Our consistency is excellent - we have been keeping our end of
bargain without fail for 28 years.
Unfortunately, many of our customers have to find out the hard way that we
expect you to keep your end of the bargain as well!
When you give us your money, we expect you to show respect for
our rules. We give you an hour to decide whether
you can accept those rules or not. Once the Grace Period has ended, we
have the legitimate right to assume you will respect our rules.
And if you change your mind for whatever reason, then that's your right.
Just don't waste your time telling us about it because we intend to stick
to the rules. As they say, a Deal is a Deal.
Here are three quotations regarding "Service".
- Someone once said the measure of a great business is
the service it gives to the particular needs of each individual
- Customer service notice - Helen Waite is now in
charge of all rush orders. If you are in a hurry, just go to Helen
can't be servile. I give service. There is a difference."
- Delores Dante, waitress.
How the American Business World Handles Refunds -
The Dead Battery Story
reference point, did you know that many American Companies are very
reluctant to give Refunds? In Refund Overview I discussed how
Keystone Ski Resort laughed at my refund request.
Now here is a more recent example with Baker-Jackson Nissan.
The emails tell the
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 11:34 AM
To: Randy Gray
Subject: battery failure
I am the guy who pinned the car key to your door with duct tape a
week ago. As you may remember, my vehicle blew an air filter on the
freeway and had to be towed to your business. Since it was a Sunday
and you were not open, I parked my car nearby.
As part of the repair, you said I needed a new battery.
Last night (four days since I picked my car up) my car would not
start. The engine would not turn over. I was stuck in a Starbucks
parking lot and had to walk to work from there. I had my wife and
daughter in the car and someone had to come get them.
Then I had to make a special trip after work with a friend to jump
start the car. I took it to a corner service station.
They said the battery had a bad cell in it. I immediately told them
to replace it because I was certain the battery was bad. I could not
take the chance of getting stuck like that again.
This was not an isolated incident. From the moment I picked up the
car from your dealership four days ago, the horn didn't sound right,
the beep when I locked the car didn't sound right, and the car was
ALWAYS very slow to start. Something was fishy from the get-go, but
since the car did start I ignored it.
I will spare you a description of the number of headaches this
problem caused me last night because I realize problems like this
However I think it would be fair if you would reimburse me the cost
of the battery since at your suggestion we replaced the old one just
I will be happy to fax you a copy of the new bill, but I am
reluctant to make a special trip to the other side of town for a
problem that was not mine of the making. I hope you understand.
From: Randy Gray [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 1:41 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: battery failure
All work we do comes with a 12 mo.\12,000 mile warranty as long as
we charge a diagnosis fee. You did pay diagnosis as part of the
repair. We will be glad to re-check all the work we performed and
re-diagnose at no charge to you. Do you have the Nissan battery?
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 2:00 PM
To: Randy Gray
Subject: RE: battery failure
I never doubted the warranty would be good. However I am very
reluctant to make a special trip - your venue is a 30 minute drive.
To make matters more complicated I am taking my car to have that
fender damage repaired tomorrow.
I indeed have the battery. And I can hang onto it till the next time
I am in the area.
What if I fax the $120 bill from Montalbano Tire and you just mail
me a check? You could call them if you really believed there was
something fishy. They too performed a diagnosis (which is listed on
the bill). It said the battery had a bad cell.
The car has worked perfectly since the switch was made. The horn
honks again, the key beep beeps again, and the engine turns over
FAST as opposed to sluggishly. It was obviously the right thing to
Surely you would see that it is highly unlikely I would be pulling a
stunt. You have met me and know I appear to be reasonable.
Is there an easy solution? Rick Archer
From: Randy Gray [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2005 3:17 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: battery failure
I spoke with my service manager regarding your situation. He
instructed me to inform you that this particular situation seems to
be fully related to the battery; which falls under our parts
He said that as long as you bring the battery we installed and a
receipt showing where you replaced it due to a bad cell, we will be
able to reimburse you for the cost of the battery but not for the
labor. This is a part, as long as it was defective, that we would
have replaced for you at no charge.
He also informed me that it is important to return in a timely
fashion. Within a week. Thank you,
From: Rick Archer [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2005 11:33 AM
To: Randy Gray
Subject: RE: battery failure
It won't happen within a week, but I will drop it off the next time
I am in the area.
Baker-Nissan is on the
South Loop. I live in the Heights. It would require a special
trip in the middle of the day to take this battery to them. As I
add this experience to the list on June 8, 2005, it has been three
weeks since the incident.
First, did you note how "important" it is to them that I HURRY
over to their business to take care of a problem caused by their
defective battery? You know and I know based on this email they
are setting me up for a reason to deny me the Refund using some
arbitrary time limit.
Second, did you see an apology for a massive inconvenience caused by
Third, they won't even reimburse me for their labor which amounted to
$40. Furthermore they replaced a battery that HAD BEEN WORKING.
Mr. Gray told me over the phone that my original battery was defective. I trusted them.
What else do you do in this situation?
Now just how "customer friendly" are these guys? Not
particularly. This is a multi-million dollar business and here
they are jacking around a man who bought a $30,000 car from them over
a problem they caused themselves.
Four months later I did have a chance to take the battery back on a
Saturday in August. A gentleman named David Hernandez met me
at the customer service counter. He said the manager had left for
the day and he wasn't authorized to give refunds even though I
showed him the battery I had been carrying around in my trunk for
four months and showed him the original receipt.
So I left the battery and Mr. Hernandez promised me I would receive
a phone call from the manager on Monday. I'm still waiting.
Even more humiliating, about two weeks later I discovered before I
handed the battery to Mr. Hernandez, that the battery had one more
laugh at my expense. Unbeknownst to me, it had fallen over in the
trunk and dumped battery acid that was absorbed invisibly into the
carpet. I discovered the problem when three shirts I had bought at
Sams had holes all over them.
Didn't a light bulb go on in
anyone's head that I am probably getting ready to buy my next vehicle?
How smart are these people? You decide.
IS SSQQ's SERVICE IQ LIKE RE OUR CUSTOMERS?
SSQQ Dance Studio was started in 1977.
SSQQ is a
"Service Business". We stay in business
based on our ability to make our customers happy.
Based on my 2005 experiences, making our customers happy is has grown a
lot harder than to accomplish than it used to. I reached a point
where I thought we were being taken advantage of by a number of our
customers. This is an issue I will deal with later in the article.
As we approach our 30th year in business, I would have
to say one of the biggest problems facing our business is the
ever-increasing tendency on the part of our customers to
push the envelope when it comes to "customer service".
Most requests are reasonable, but each year the number of situations that
cross the line increase.
First let's take a look at some
of the simple day-to-day examples of the problems we face.
Situation One - Blind Men Take
In 2004 we had two men taking group Salsa classes
who were just short of
being totally blind. These two men would have
without extra help on our part. Our instructors
showered both men with a great deal of extra attention. In fact we
practically had to assign one teacher to help them
exclusively because they could not see what the instructor
However you have to admire their courage.
It wasn't easy for them, but both men patiently repeated the class from
month to month and seemed to be improving.
This is a side to our
organization that I am proud of.
However I knew if either man decided to move up to Intermediate, I
have to say "no". We could not allow these men to slow down the pace of a
more difficult class. It would be practically the same thing as allowing
someone in a wheel chair to take the class. What's the point?
Fortunately they never tried. One day I noticed they
were not there any more. Since I don't teach Salsa, I wasn't aware of
the inside story on why they left, but I hope they have good memories of
us. They certainly have my respect.
This example illustrates clearly the give-and-take between meeting the
needs of the unique customer and meeting the needs of our other customers
as well. We can't jeopardize the entire group for the needs of these two
men. We will bend a little, but we has to be a limit.
Situation Two - Dance History Not
Here is another story. In April 2005 a man showed up to take Martian Whip
4. He was relatively new to the studio this year, a fact I am certain of
because I had never seen this man in the class
before and I have been teaching it for many years. He told the Registrar
he was repeating the class and wanted to take the class for half-price. A
quick glance at his computerized history showed no such record. In my
opinion there is no doubt he was wrong. He left in a huff after the
Registrar stood her ground.
Interestingly, a few minutes later another man
decided not to sign up for the exact same class
for the same reason. He also told the Registrar he had taken this class
before. This gentleman had a legitimate problem. He had taken many Martian
classes, but could not remember which ones (there are 12!).
According the computer, it turned out this particular
level was not one of them. In a sense, he had a "missing baseball
card." He stuck to his guns and said he remembered he had taken it. We
said our records did not confirm this. He frowned and
said, "Okay, I think I will just wait till next month since I will have to
miss at least one class anyway." So he turned around and left. Like
his predecessor, it was worth taking at half-price but not at full price.
The difference was he did not leave angry.
In my opinion, both men had a complete right to decide not to take the
class. If the price wasn't right, that is how business works. The only
thing I resented was the attitude of one man in particular who gave the
Registrar a very difficult time. Before it was
"Business", but now he has made it "Personal".
Furthermore it isn't just about the money. It is Respect.
One man wasn't happy about
the price, but left gracefully. The other left in anger. He expects us to
treat him with respect but he doesn't realize is that we expect him to
show us respect in return. No matter how low on the
organization totem pole an employee may be, there is no reason to
be disrespectful to anyone who is doing the job they are paid for. Clearly
the Registrar didn't tell the man the wrong information. He was just angry
that she wouldn't cut him a deal because he expected her to
take his word for it and believe him.
In other words, he tried to bully his way in.
The meanest thing a customer can do is abuse an employee who has been told
to follow a certain rule. What is the value of this kind of meanness? The
employee is helpless to fight back for fear of losing
her job. In my book, that makes the customer a bully.
As I said earlier, we give Service, but we will not
2006 Update: Another
Half-Price Incident: The $23 Argument
In 2006, someone pulled a similar move like the angry man above. He
showed up to register for a class he took back in 1995. He expected the
Registrar, who just happened to be my wife, to give him his half price
discount. She asked him where his email confirmation was from me
authorizing her to extend a half price discount.
He said he didn't have one and didn't know the policy had been changed.
Marla replied that we had discontinued the Half Price option for
students taking classes from 2001 back. He got very angry and
challenged her repeatedly. Then he fibbed about something "Linda"
had told him. Marla stuck to her guns. He got angry and stomped out,
leaving her near tears with frustration because she had taken a lot of
abuse from him.
Sent: Sunday, January 08, 2006 8:18 PM
Rick, I was told that I had to email you. I took about 6 different
courses form SSQQ back in 95 & 96 with my boss. A bunch of us from
Houston Cellular took lessons.
I talked to Linda last week and was not made aware of that I had to
email you or I would have done it then. I came tonight and that is
when they said I was not in the computer. It only went back to about
2001. I wanted to retake some of my previous lessons to get back on
track. Can I retake them at the half price now.
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 9:46 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Repeat
You were unbelievably aggressive with my wife last night, all over a
lousy $23 half-price. I deeply resent people who try to bully their
way past people who are only doing what I myself told them to do.
Instead you stood there and berated my wife with taunts ("You're his
WIFE, aren't you?") and repeatedly told her that Linda had promised
you a half-price class.
I just got off the phone with Linda to ask for her side of the
story. It turns out Linda knows the rules quite well. "People who
are not in the computer have to email Rick Archer in advance for
permission to take a class for half-price."
You are a bully and you are not welcome here.
Sent: Mon 01/09/2006 10:53 AM
Is trying to get into a class for what was promised years ago. I did
not want to miss the bigining nite. Twenty Three dollars might be
nothing to you but I have been out of a job for a long time now. I
however did not tell your wife that Linda had promissed me the $23
dollars. I said that Linda did ot tell me that I had to email you. I
had told Linda that I had taked courses years ago and did not know
which class to start with. Linda said to get with her and she would
see what I knew and then would let me know what class to start with.
All I was trying to do is get what was promissed me 10 years ago.
Having been married before, my wife had as much to say about what we
did as I did. Equality. That is all I ment by that statement. I just
assumed that she could do what ever you could. I was not trying to
scold her. All I wanted was to be alble to take a lesson.
How would you feel, if when, you drive all the way from the other
side of town to do something you only had the money for and you get
there and they tell you it will cost you double to get in. If I had
known that all I had to do was email you I would have and none of
this would have happened.
FOUR (MY SECOND REPLY)
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 10:53 AM
Subject: complaint of the month Repeat
You were verbally abusive to a woman in a service role who was not
in a position to respond in kind to your anger. Although you did not
use profanity or raise your voice, you were clearly angry with
someone who could not speak back to you the customer in the same
manner you treated her. You insisted that since Marla was my wife,
she should be able to break the rules for anyone she wished. Marla
got angry with you at that point, but rather than fight back, she
simply said, "I am an SSQQ employee" which meant she was doing her
job. She then said, "Rick makes the rules and I follow them."
On a personal note, you made her angry. You challenged her to break
the rules because you knew she wasn't going to get fired if I found
out about it. You pinned her to the wall with that taunt.
You then said, "Well, I drove all the way across town because Linda
said over the phone I could get in for half-price." Per my phone
conversation with Linda this morning, it is likely you are not
telling the truth. When Marla replied that Linda does not have the
authority to grant people half-price discounts, you got even angrier
that she would stand her ground to you. In a nutshell, you pushed
someone around who was helpless to respond to you.
Your parting words as you left in a huff were "I'm going to say bad
things about SSQQ to all my friends."
Maybe SSQQ is not always as friendly as it used to be, but it is the
treatment we receive from people like you that explains why we are
forced to make rules in the first place and stick to them.
As for your half-price allegation, it is not a "right", it is a
policy. The half-price policy for previous students was discontinued
recently. I based this decision on another incident last month with
customer who also was not in the computer who showed up and
requested half-price without having my email permission. The student
was certainly nowhere near as hostile as you were, but she was
It was this incident (which I elaborated upon in a recent
Newsletter) that led us to discontinue the pre-2000 discounts in the
DECEMBER 2005 NEWSLETTER
The title of the story is: WHAT ABOUT DISCOUNTS
FOR PEOPLE WHO TOOK CLASSES BEFORE 2001
If you indeed spoke to Ms. Cook as you said you did, she would have
explained that a simple email would have gotten you in the door for
half-price. In my upcoming Newsletter, I will print the emails of
three other people to show that I indeed give the discount whenever
asked in a courteous way.
I repeat, you are not welcome here.
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 11:45 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Repeat
I wish I had been pointed to that article or told about it or was
able to see it in you web site in the first place. Rick I do ot lie.
I just was not informed about the new rules when I talked to Linda.
It just did not come up. I did not ask about the half price because
I thought it was a policy. I came for a little while a few years ago
and just told them I had taken the course before and they charged me
half price. I was not aware of the new rules. It was not Linda's
fault and I do not think it was mine either.
I was frustrated for that I am sorry. I wish you could see it from
my point of view. I did not raise my voice, all I wanted to do is
take a dance lesson. Now you do not even want me there at all.
Perhaps there is another way that you can let people know of the new
rules before they get to the class expecting something and getting
something else. It seems there has been others put out by this new
rule. I do understand why you would make the new rule (having to be
in the computer) I for one wish I had known about it before I got
Rick, you have the right to keep me out, I wish you would not.
Again, please look at it from my point of view. I have looked at it
SIX (MY THIRD REPLY)
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 2:59 PM
Subject: RE: Repeat
After showing your email to Marla, she said she does not mind if you
take a class at SSQQ this month.
You are correct when you state that it isn't fair to expect the
whole world to know of our policy change. I
appreciate that you have made me aware of my shortsightedness.
As my way of mending fences, there will be no charge to take the
class this month. I will send you permission another email in just a
SEVEN (MY FOURTH REPLY)
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 3:01 PM
Subject: Permission to take January 2006 class at SSQQ at no charge
Registrar, please issue Mr. LD a receipt
for whichever class he desires to take. There will be no charge.
Mr. LD, please print this out and bring it
with you to show the Registrar.
This story illustrates four different issues.
1. People lie
and try to bully their way into class ALL THE TIME. Over the past year,
this constant rudeness has embittered us to the point where we felt
"angry and not willing to take it anymore".
2. I won't tolerate having my Hall Monitors and Registrars abused for
simply doing their job.
3. Standing up to people who cross the line feels a lot better than that
"Customer is always right" attitude.
4. I made a big mistake not giving an Amnesty Period. This policy switch
should have been given six months to sink in. I feel ashamed of
myself for my part of creating the situation which started the fight in
the first place. If you noticed, I apologized. Then I turned around and
told Marla she had permission to ease up.
This business of balancing what is fair to the
customer and what is fair to the business is very tricky stuff.
- Refund Struggle
2005 was notable for the toughest Refund Struggle in the history of the
studio. A woman who was the Assistant Director of a prestigious Houston-area MBA program
demanded. We went head to head for several months.
One day she came at me with both guns blazing. Reeling from the
strength of her attack, I started to write about her story in this
section RIGHT HERE. I published her emails and my
counter-arguments as a way to sort through my own position.
As I re-read all her emails listed one after the other, I shook my head
at the absurdity of some of the statements.
HER WORDS: "I was conveniently uninformed that I must
seek a refund prior to the first class until after the first class was
MY REPLY: That is a new one. Your reasoning baffles me. How do you expect us to warn
you of our refund policy before we know you wish to ask for a refund??
The policy is posted on the Internet loud and clear. I don't know what
else to do to protect you from our predatory business practices.
We have paid for a service that we have
not received nor plan on
recommend that you refund the money.
I never replied to that statement, but if I had, this is what I would
MY REPLY: How are
we supposed to provide a service when you don't even show up? Did
you expect us to make a home visit and teach you in the living room?
I thought to myself, "How does a woman who teaches people how to run
their business make arguments like this with a straight face?"
That's when I had an idea. Why not actually ask her that very question?
So I wrote her back:
MY REPLY: How you would handle YOUR PROBLEM if you were
in MY SHOES??
It turned out to be a much longer story. When I fleshed out the
story and gave it more details, I decided to move it from this page and
give it a page of its own.
Situation Four - For Some People, The Rules Work
Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 10:07 PM
Subject: Private lessons instead of group lessons
To whom it may concern,
My wife and I have signed up for your group lesson for beginning salsa
classes starting this Thursday June 09 through June 30th. The purpose is
for us to learn how to dance with each other and being in the group
lesson, this prohibits us from doing so as we later read in detail. We
would like to take private lessons but we have already paid for the group
Let us know when we could take private lessons and what we can do to
refund or transfer the paid amounts towards private lessons. We look
forward to your reply.
From: Rick Archer [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 6:32 AM
Subject: RE: Private lessons instead of group lessons
Group lesson money cannot be shifted to private lessons.
Since your class has not started yet, you should
have no trouble getting a refund.
You can go to the studio and get a
refund on Wednesday or Thursday evening around 7 pm.
Linda Cook for your lessons.
Situation Five - Electronic
Transactions (in brief)
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 11:20 PM
Subject: Wed class
Hi Rick, I'm sorry but I need to cancel the class I
signed up for last week. It's the Night Club 2 step. I missed
the first class and was going to start tomorrow. I will not be
able to attend any due to an unexpected circumstances.
I don't have the email confirmation so I hope you can find me
in your records and find me.
Please let me know when you have credited my Master Card.
The customer above has absolutely
no idea how hard it would be to grant her wish.
Our customers do not understand is that the On-Line Registration System
does not allow us a simple way to cancel an "electronic registration".
Indeed canceling an electronic registration is a deeply time-consuming
problem. It is also very easy to make mistakes!
If there was a
simple way to cancel an Electronic Registration, (i.e. Online
Registration), I would use it. But there isn't!
And believe me when I say that as on January 2006 I have looked. I
invite a reader to come to the studio and show me an easy way. If it's
out there, I am willing to learn. But until that person steps
forward, you will just have to take my word for it.
Therefore people who register on
the Internet have to play by the EXACT SAME RULES as people who use
walk-in Registration... "You have till the end of Break on your
first night of class to get a Refund".
- "I was out of town and
couldn't make it back in time to cancel my on-line registration."
It is common for businesses to expect their customers to
come to the premises to receive their Refund. For example, in the
Dead Battery story earlier in this article, I was expected to make a
highly inconvenient drive across town to REMEDY A PROBLEM THAT WAS
At SSQQ we expect you to come to our business to
REMEDY A PROBLEM THAT IS YOUR FAULT.
- "Why should On-Line
Registrations be subject to the same rules as Walk-In?"
Any parent knows the dangers of treating one child with one set
of rules and the other child with a different set. Last night we had
over 200 people taking Salsa classes. At Break Time, 2 people came
out and asked for a Refund because they thought it was too crowded.
We gave their money to them on the spot without any arguing or
meanness. They got their money back and departed without rancor.
When it comes to On-Line Registration, the simple solution is "Don't
Register Till You Make Up Your Mind". Most of our students
register the day of the class. How difficult is that??
if something goes wrong, we will give you credit. But no Refund.
- "I signed up On-Line in
the convenience of my home. Why should I have to drive to the studio
if I change my mind to get my money back?
extraordinarily tricky to find an Electronic Credit Card Transaction
on the Internet. A hacker might be able to do it, but not me.
If you are willing to accept a credit for your change of mind, you
don't have to do a thing!
However if you want your
money back we WILL give it to you if you come and get it on the day
or or before your class starts.
I have already said it
before, but giving out Electronic Refunds is very difficult. I have
tried and found it confusing and time-consuming. If it was a
two-minute simple click of a button, then I would be more
But if it means taking 30 minutes out my day
for me to solve a problem using the Internet that you caused
by changing your mind or letting you make a 30-minute drive
to the studio to solve the problem you caused in the first place,
which box do you think I am going to check?
suggest I charge a service fee. My lawyer charges me $200 an
hour. Why shouldn't I charge my customers the same fee?
would end up owing SSQQ money at the speed I work on the Internet.
Instead you can come to the studio and get all your money back with
no service charge.
Situation Six - People Change
Here is another story. I have lots of stories. SSQQ organizes two cruise
trips a year. Organizing these trips is a great deal of work.
One of the biggest headaches are the dozens of
requests for changes made by people who have already signed up the cruise.
Did you know the Birds
and the Bees have a way of driving any cruise
Single people have love lives that change not only on a daily basis, but
sometimes even on an hourly basis. Since a cruise typically needs to be
booked months in advance, people's love lives change as time passes.
Each time there is love-life change, we get a phone
call or an email requesting a change. Nor is it unusual to get another
phone call or email a day later asking that things be changed back.
One woman dropped off the trip altogether when
her romance with a man signed up for the trip soured. She didn't want to
be anywhere near him.
Another woman signed up under an assumed name hoping that an old flame
would not notice she was going until it was too late to join.
(2006 Update: Apparently the
woman had a reason to use stealth. The "ex-flame" turned out to be a
very jealous "ex-husband". The ex-husband signed up for the trip
at the last moment and proceeded to make life miserable for the
boyfriend and former wife. Still, they got the last laugh. They
announced their engagement on the last night of the trip. It was awkward
Another woman signed up for two different cabins with
two different men. Now isn't that clever? She assumed she would have
to drop one at Crunch Time and sure enough that's exactly what she did.
(2006 update: She made a good choice though - the
one she kept is still with her six months later.)
This year's trip saw a very odd coincidence. Two people who had booked
separate cabins decided they wanted to room together after their
day-to-day romance escalated to a higher level.
This was a big headache because it meant we had to
scramble to find two new roommates!
After all, now we had two people of opposite sexes who suddenly
didn't have their original roommate due to the improvement in their
former roommates' romantic status. Just when we
were tearing our hair out our wondering where we
would find two more people to take the trip at the last
minute, the problem was magically solved. Out of the blue another
couple that had originally signed up to room together decided their
relationship had not progressed to the point where they should be sharing
a cabin. But they still wanted to go. So they
called and asked to be split up. Things worked out
okay, but for a couple days, we weren't sure what we were going to do
since there was no one on the Wait List.
All the changes discussed
above (and quite a few that were not mentioned) were important to
the individuals, but each change meant more headaches because their decisions affected other people besides themselves.
It is pretty clear that future cruises in 2006 will
have to carry a "change your mind" penalty because there has to be a way
to limit all these headaches. There are just so many hours in
the day. Yes, people deserve the right to change their
minds, but if it requires extra work to solve the problem, then it is time
to spend a dime to change your mind. Or maybe more.
One cruise incident completely crossed the line. Recently we received an
email from someone who wanted to go on the cruise but said they were
handicapped. The email listed the particular handicap and the problems it
presented for someone taking on a cruise - mostly mobility problems. The
email concluded with this statement: "Please send a detailed outline of
the services you can provide to meet my particular needs as a member of
Email increasingly is coming into question as a less than effective means
of communication than it once seemed. Any email that asks a lot of
questions and requires a lot of details becomes a huge demand on someone's
time. Who wants to spend their whole day typing away trying to answer
vague questions? There are just so many hours in the day. Perhaps if these
questions had been asked on the phone, the person would not have seemed so
demanding. But the tone of the email clearly rubbed me the wrong way.
It is true that some people will go overboard trying to help, but anyone
who analyzes that statement fails to realize that some people who go
overboard also drown. Bill
Cosby was once quoted as saying,
know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please
everybody.” Again we try to help, but there has to
be a LIMIT!
You do not have the right to take up my Time without my permission!
One time I got off the plane in Denver. The rental cars
were located out on the prairie well over
a mile away from the main terminal. The car rental person warned me that
one of the shuttle buses to my rental car wasn't working and that only one
bus was currently in service. This meant there might be a wait of up to an
hour if by chance I barely missed the bus.
I had a long drive ahead to get to a ski resort.
I was in a bit of a hurry to get there while it
was still light so it would be easier to find my condo
and rent my skis ahead of time. The man suggested I take a cab.
The moment I got in the cab, the driver asked me
where to. I told him about the shuttle problem. He said the
short trip would cost $10. I complained. He
turned around and pointed to twenty taxis in a line behind him. He said
the cost in time of having to go to the back of the line wasn't worth the
$3 minimum fare to the shuttle place.
I laughed when I saw his point. I countered with
an offer of $6 just to play the game. He countered with $8 and that was
the final price. Time is Money.
Here is an old joke about attorneys.
A man walked into a lawyer's office and inquired about
the lawyer's rates.
"$60.00 for three questions", replied the lawyer.
"Isn't that awfully steep?" asked the man.
"Yes," the lawyer replied, "and while you pay me, what is your third
Recently I had an experience
where I was forced to use a lawyer to defend my 50-50 custody rights in
regards to my daughter. As you likely have guessed, my
ex-wife was suing me. To say I was livid about the entire process
is a mild understatement.
But the point here involves the lawyer. One day very early in the process I received a
bill for $400. I was stunned. My attorney and I had not even met to sit
down and discuss the case!
It seems I was being billed $200 an hour in return for the service of
talking on the phone and reading emails. I had been using this particular
attorney for 20 years and had never been billed in this manner before.
Furthermore I had never been charged this rate before either. This was a
new and highly unpleasant development.
I was especially angry at being
billed in this manner because it came without the courtesy of a
preliminary explanation (or more to the point, a
warning - had I known of the change, I would not have forwarded any
Unfortunately it seemed like bad judgment to change horses in the middle
of such an important battle, so I accepted my attorney's unexpected move
and begrudging paid the rate. The stakes were too high to take a chance,
but that didn't mean I felt like I was treated fairly.
My bitterness at the thought of paying someone $200 an hour to read emails
got me to thinking...
Did you know I spend two hours a day reading and answering ssqq
email for free?
Just imagine! I could be making $400 a day just reading all the
complaints that get sent to me! That sure would improve my attitude about
the complaints, now wouldn't it?
If it was a complaint I didn't like, I could just read it
slower! Even better, I would encourage people to
complain more! Best of all, I could charge them for adding their
emails to articles just like this one!
Now we're talking!
I no longer enjoy reading email because half my time is spent deleting
spam and the other half of the time I spend reading email that is highly
unpleasant. Instead of getting the chance to enjoy my free time off from
work during the day, I get slammed on a daily basis with all kinds of emails
that give me headaches.
This email is a good example.
I get emails like this on a daily basis!
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2005 11:52 AM
Subject: switching salsa classes
Hi my name is XX. I am presently taking Int Salsa III.
The reason I am emailing you is because I need to change classes. I see
that you guys offer Int Salsa I which is what I needed (had beginning
salsa last month). The reason I registered for the Int Salsa III was
because I was not aware of what the last day was for my other class. I
went on April 30th thinking that it was the last class but in reality it
was the first class for the Month of May. I did not want to come for
nothing so I registered for the class that I have presently and I asked
one of the ladies if I could change to the Tuesday or Thursday class
they told me to go ahead and email you.
Basically what I am asking is to be dropped from INT Salsa III and be
put in what is left of INT Salsa I. I would really appreciate it. If
possible can you email me before tomorrow I wanted to attend tomorrow's
class. Thank you once again!
Ms. X, I don't think this is a very good idea for three reasons.
One, we don't allow people to start classes in the third week. The movie
is already half-over so to speak.
Two, you are supposed to ask to switch a class IMMEDIATELY, not two
weeks down the road.
Three, there is nothing wrong with the class you signed up for. When
people ask to switch, it is because they have signed up for the wrong
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2005 4:01 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: switching salsa classes
I understand what you say.
I have not attended my last class either. I have only been there once.
I was not able to email you because I do not have internet access.
I know that there is nothing wrong with the class. It's great but I
won't be able to attend those days. I would be able to attend only on
tuesday or if not on thursday. I enrolled for the sat. class but i was
supposed to email you asap but I did not. I am a college student who
takes 12 hours this month has been very hectic for me especially with
So if you can change me that would be great.
but if it is not possible I will accept that
thank you for your time. S
I am glad to note that Customer S thanked me for my
time. But what if I had CHARGED HER FOR MY TIME?
Or better yet, acted just like the Lawyer and charged her for my time
without warning her first?
Would she be as pleasant?
Let's pretend I charged her a fee for reading emails. I realize that dance teachers are not nearly as important as lawyers, but
for the sake of argument let's also pretend dance
teachers are important.
This woman is writing me because she has changed her mind about
something. Now she wishes for me to invest my own time in solving her
At $200 an hour, I would estimate I spent $50 reading and replying to the
two emails above. But what if I also billed my students for the time I
spent "thinking" about the questions? Sometimes I
am so baffled as to what to say I have to just sit there at the keyboard
and analyze what is the right thing to say or do.
After all, deep down inside I do enjoy making my customers happy. But not
if it is at too great an expense or investment of time! I literally
sit there and wrestle with my conscience. Do I bend? Do I
stick to my guns? There is never a right answer. Each situation is
just different enough to call for a reevaluation of my position.
As for Ms. X above,
I am certain I put in 10 minutes of "thought"
was fair in this situation. That would have added at least another $30 to
the bill. And did I mention I looked up her class history on the Internet
and checked her story? That took 7 minutes because the cable was slow… but
that's not my fault, is it? After all, I had to wait
and time is money! That's another $20
right there. $50 + $30 + $20 = $100!
How do you suppose this person would feel if I sent her a bill for $100?
After all, her tuition only amounted to $38 to begin with, but nowhere did
it specify my email time was free, now did it?
After all, if my lawyer can change the rules without warning, why can't I?
Although I ended up spending an hour of my time on this curious situation,
I told her "No" for free. However when you realize I get two or
three of these kind of emails a day, you begin to see why increasingly I
dread opening my email box.
MORE ABOUT WHY
I HATE EMAIL
Do you remember where I wrote that most of the time
that I spend reading email
is highly unpleasant?
Not only does it take up an enormous
amount of time to read them all, Email allows people to be extremely rude and
Before 1873 when the typewriter was invented,
hand-written letters took care of long distant communication.
The typewriter speeded up the rate of communication
because typing letters was faster than writing them by hand, but
an even bigger invention was just around the corner. Just three
years later in 1876 Alexander Graham Bell introduced the telephone as
well. That really improved communication! And all
of us thought answering machines were the cat's meow back in the 1970s.
But only 20 years later, in
the mid 1990s when the Internet and Email were added to our
communication tools, they was widely hailed as an invention that would
greatly enhance our lives.
I definitely thought Email was the
most wonderful thing in the world.
When email first came along, I fell in love with it immediately. I had
always hated answering machines, but typing emails seemed so much easier
than leaving a phone message!
Since then I have come to rethink my earlier impressions. The problem with
emails is that they are endless!
Scams, Viruses, Jokes, Political Messages, Junk, Carbon Copies,
plus even simple "thank you" replies all add up to an
amazing number that grows and grows and grows. Oh my gosh when does
Many of You, Few of Me
And the problem is that I am outnumbered! SSQQ has 1200 students a month.
What if half of them have questions or problems? There is only one of me.
I respond to the email as fast as I can, but it is turning into a daily
Once upon a time, I emailed Jeff Weigand, the hero of
the true story told in the movie "The Insider" (Russell Crowe, Al Pacino).
Dr. Weigand's brave decision to testify about the shadowy practices of
the tobacco industry is widely hailed as the breakthrough that brought
this evil industry to its knees. I wrote him a very long letter thanking
him and telling him how much I admired his courage (the man lost
practically everything in the process - his job, his wife, his kids, his
home, his retirement, tons of money, his reputation, and had his life
His reply to
me? "Thank you. I had lots of help".
I smiled at the
short answer. Many of me, few of him. I understood. Yes, indeed,
if anyone understood, that would be me.
Here is another email situation to ponder.
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2005 11:58 AM
Subject: Refund question
Hello, My fiancée and I signed up for dance lessons back in January, but
once we got to the first class we realized that we didn't sign up for
exactly what we expected and that the lessons might be a little to early
before our wedding reception to do us much good. We talked with the
woman at the front desk before class began and she said that we could
schedule another class instead, using the credit that we had from the
class that we decided not to take.
Our wedding is now in two weeks, and with all of the things we've had to
take care of we've been unable to take a class. Can we receive a refund
for the amount of the class?
Thank you, SM
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2005 5:21 PM
To: S M
Subject: RE: Refund question
There is a "Slow Dance and Romance" class that begins Monday, March 28.
It is EXACTLY the class you need. You will get two lessons in before
your wedding, which should be sufficient, especially if you stay after
class and practice.
You are welcome to take this class at no charge if you print this out
and bring it with you on the first night.
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2005 5:24 PM
Subject: Refund question
Unfortunately the wedding is April 2nd. Just let me know if the refund
is not an option.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2005 7:46 PM
Subject: Refund question
The refund is not an option. Sorry.
However I will be happy to meet with you this Monday at 6 pm to train
you for your wedding dance. There would be no charge. Just bring your
Continuing the theme of charging for
emails, let's add up the cost of these four Refund emails. They are
pretty short, aren't they?? I will say it
took me 15 minutes to read them, think about them, and type my replies.
You clearly must be getting sick of my avarice.
But wait! Did you notice I offered
to come work with them for free? Look above!
says, "There would be no charge."
I offered to come to work an hour early because it looked like they needed
some help. Guess what? They didn't want my
help. They just wanted the refund.
- It didn't matter that they could have asked for a Refund on their first
night of class.
- It didn't matter that they received correct advice that they could switch
to another class at a later date.
- It didn't matter that I offered them another class for free.
- And it obviously didn't matter that I sincerely
to help them. Even though they didn't reply to me, I showed up
early that next Monday just in case I had missed their return email.
None of this mattered.
They didn't show up for
their free lesson. They just wanted their refund.
ONE HOUR JUST DOESN'T SEEM TO BE ENOUGH TIME FOR SOME PEOPLE…
From: Nehal Porecha
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 5:06 PM
Subject: Regarding Salsa Lessons! Pls read!!
Dear Mr. Archer,
My name is Nehal Porecha. My fiancé Shakeel Ahmed and I signed up for
the beginner's Salsa lessons scheduled every Saturday 4:30- 6:30 pm
class starting from April 30th - May 21st. Unfortunately, we were not
able to continue after the first class and I would like to explain the
We went for our first class on April 30th. We signed up at the reception
desk for what we thought were 'couple' salsa lessons and not group salsa
lessons. Our impression about the structure of the class was that
everyone would get to learn and practice the dance steps as a couple
with their respective partners and not have to rotate from person to
person. Learning something completely new is difficult in the first
place and having to adjust to the style of dancing of the other people
in the class while rotating made it even more challenging. It was very
uncomfortable for the both of us. So towards the end of our first class,
me and my fiancé started dancing with each other instead of rotating to
familiarize ourselves and help each other learn the steps. We also told
the instructor that we chose to dance with each other and he agreed to
it. And that is the reason why we did not ask for a refund immediately
after our first class.
Our second class was on May 7th and again we started dancing with each
other, but this time the instructor came to us and practically forced us
to rotate. We told him that we did not want to and he informed us that
if we did not rotate then we had to leave the class and ask for a
refund. Which we did and were told to write to you and explain the
situation and to obtain a personal e-mail from you oking the refund.
I am writing to request a refund of $63.50 for the three classes that we
will not attend. The credit can be applied back to my credit card.
Instead, we are interested in taking private Salsa lessons at SSQQ with
a private instructor. Could you please suggest one so that we can sign
Please contact me either via e-mail or via phone as soon as possible. I
would really appreciate your attention in this matter.
Thank you for your time.
Regards, Nehal Porecha
This was the Email that served as the
straw that broke the camel's back.
It aggravated me so much I decided I
had to collect my thoughts before responding in anger. I spent
eight days thinking about it. Finally I decided it was just too
complicated to answer without putting my ideas down on paper first. I had
been upset with the "Refund Problem" for some time and it was this email
that made me decide it was time to say something.
Let me add it is a good thing I didn't reply!
If I were charging to respond to this email, this couple would have racked up at least a $400 bill just for the
hours I spent thinking about it!
Let's go over their email again.
1. They had the opportunity to get their money back
right on the spot.
They complained that they thought it was a "couples class" and found out
it was a group class. Although I am sorry they were disappointed, we gave
them an entire hour to make this discovery and get their money back
without penalty. The first hour was spent switching partners. What made
them think we were going to make an exception for them?
2. They said the instructor permitted them to dance
with each other in the second hour and this was why they didn't ask for
their money back.
It wouldn't have done them any good. The Registrar picked up and left
after Break. An hour should be sufficient for anyone to make up their
3. They complained in the second week they tried to
dance exclusively with each other, but the instructor forced them to stop.
Our rules clearly indicate we expect each student to change partners. The
rules are posted on four walls. They are even printed on the receipts. It
is true that when it comes to couples that don't want to switch our
instructors occasionally look the other way the same way a cop overlooks a
speeding ticket. We know that some people feel uncomfortable and try to
give them a little leeway. But there is a limit. At some point they need
to start "switching" or leave the room. The instructor did exactly the
right thing where they were concerned.
4. And they wrapped things up by demanding to switch
group class tuition to private lesson tuition.
Switching Group Class Tuition to Private Lesson Tuition is
not permitted here at the studio. No one really
knows "why", but you might be surprised to know
I have a lot of energy on this issue.
In the Article "Excessive Whining" I explain the reasons why, but for now
let's just say that in my
opinion the email above disregarded four different rules.
The Philosophy of Refunds at SSQQ
Over the years I have spent a lot of time reviewing in my mind the nature
of Refunds. SSQQ is not Foleys or Radio Shack. You can't return a
"service". People can't exactly bring back their Foxtrot lesson and say it
was defective because it didn't work at their wedding. Instead they just
ask for their money back.
The fact of the matter is that dance lessons are readily expendable if
something more interesting or pressing comes
along. A new romance, a new job, a move to another city, the car breaks
down, the flu hits, a friend visits from out of town,
the Astros start winning and the next game is
"must see"… let's face it, the list is endless!
are a million reasons people could list as to why they lost interest in
their dance lessons.
Let's be realistic. Dance lessons are not like root canals. You can't
escape pain forever, but dance lessons can be easily put aside when other
things become more important.
Meanwhile I have bills to pay. You don't run a business
Where would that leave us if everyone expected their money back the moment
they lost interest in dancing when something more important came along?
I suppose if I went very deep into Christian Consciousness or
Circle of Life concept, perhaps it is true that all good deeds return
back. Unfortunately it would take the same kind of guts that a pacifist
might use with a terrorist to make this sort of leap of faith.
Unfortunately lately too many unarmed Aid workers have been murdered in
cold blood in Iraq for my taste.
I guess I don't believe everyone out there is an honest, decent person.
I apologize, but my common sense tells me it is easier to
stay in business if I abide by commonly accepted
American capitalist business principles - "State
your rules of business, be honest, treat people fairly,
be consistent in your decisions and stick to your
So be it.
The Army certainly doesn't let its enlistees leave every time they change
their mind. And I know full well from two personal
experiences that Cruises are notorious for hanging on to your money when
things go wrong. And I have battery acid in my trunk to remind me of
Baker-Jackson Nissan's generous refund policy.
What sense does it make to allow our business to lose money every
time someone changes their mind? After all,
people change their minds all the time!
So what are you going to reply?
Are you going to fall back on the famous axiom "The customer is always
right"? Are you going to quote some economics principle that
the cost of finding a new customer is more expensive than making
exceptions to keep the current one satisfied? Are you going to be
spiritual and say that the good will generated is worth the sacrifice?
In this case, I decided to stick to my guns.
After all, our policy gave Ms. Porechal and her fiancé
in the example above over an hour to
decide whether the class was what they wanted or not. We didn't play any
tricks on them. They soon discovered the second hour, third hour, and
fourth hour of class were conducted in the same
way as the first hour.
At our studio what you see in the first hour is what you get for all eight
hours - same teacher, same curriculum, same rules, and same classmates. We
don't put on a "nice" act for 60 minutes and turn into ogres after that.
If anything the instructor tried to give them space only to be criticized
for how he handled their problem.
We essentially give our customers the chance to get a free one-hour
try-it-and-see-if-you-like-it dance lesson. If they choose to ask for a
refund at the end of the hour, that decision is okay with us. We are
grateful they at least gave us a try and we hope they come back someday.
We treat them with respect and maybe they will say something nice about us
to their friends.
However once the hour is over, we now have our own expectations!
As far as we are concerned, everyone has had time
to make up the mind. Our students have officially signed up
for the entire ride and there is no turning
During the four-week cycle of classes, we hope
they have a good time. But
even if they don't, we still expect them to
please keep the complaining down. They made their
decision, now live in peace with it.
People are still going to ask for the
By now it is should be obvious to our readers by
now that just because we think a "Deal is a Deal" doesn't mean all of our
customers agree with us.
The person who wrote the next email
asked for a Refund three months after their class
was over. Not only did they phone the studio during the day to discuss
the matter, but carefully read our Refund Policy on the web
site before making their email pitch as
Previously I wrote the
Refund Policy and the
Refund Overview story that
explains our reasons behind the Policy in extraordinary detail. If you
were to print these documents out on paper, you would generate close
to twenty pages! And if you were to print this story out, it would be
well over twenty-five pages long.
Here is the Big Question:
If someone were to take the time and read Rick Archer's FORTY
FIVE PAGES of explanation behind the SSQQ Refund Policy, would
that stop them from asking for a Refund anyway?
Let's find out!
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 11:03 AM
Subject: Refund Question
Dear Mr. Archer:
I have read your refund policies on-line but am unsure about what the
options are regarding my situation.
My husband and I signed up for a Swing class in February. We attended
the first class. That week was the week that the flu and flu-like
illnesses hit Houston. My family fell victim and we were unable to
attend any of the other classes. I called SSQQ and was informed that we
would be able to retake the class at a later date for a $5/person fee.
Since then, my husband's back has gone out. He suffers from chronic back
problems and pain that when they flare up cause him to have to be very
careful with all physical activity from sitting to lifting. Sometimes it
takes a while for him to be able to function normally again. In this
case, he has not recovered as quickly as he has in the past and dancing
is definitely out.
I talked to a very nice woman this morning who said that we have the
ability to retake the class until the end of the year, but honestly, I
don't know how long recovery from this latest episode will take and I'm
concerned that dancing could trigger a relapse. She suggested that I
email you. Is it possible in this situation to get a refund minus the
cost of the first class? We paid at the studio using a credit card.
Thank you, in advance, for considering this unfortunate situation.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 3:12 PM
Subject: RE: Refund Question
I am sympathetic to your situation, but our position is that a refund is
not in order.
When you are ready, you may retake the class at no charge. Bring this
email with you as indication I have waived any charges.
Ms. SS, the lady who wrote the email,
is more than likely a very educated woman. Not only did she express
herself very well, her "rice.edu" email address hinted at a University
background. I am quite sure she clearly understood everything I said in my
three articles, but she still asked for a Refund.
That answers the question. No matter how many places I stick our Rules and
no matter how much I write, people will disregard them and ask for
Refunds. After all, there is no negative consequence to asking. "It never
hurts to ask."
Wrong. It hurts me. I'm the one who has to go through this same process
over and over again. Many of you, few of me. People change their
mind and now I am expected to feel sorry for them.
Unlike some of the emails we get, I don't honestly think Ms. SS thought
her situation had any legal standing. Like I said, she asked anyway because "It never
hurts to ask". She simply threw herself on the mercy of the court
and hoped to catch me in a good mood.
Unfortunately it gets old. How do you treat each situation as "special"
when you get two or three problems a day??
After all, did you know there is currently a world-wide
epidemic of the cursed Mind-Changing Virus? Here at the studio people
change their minds about classes all the time!
That is a fact. When
you have 1,200 customers a month, the laws of probability hint that at
least 5% of our students
are going to have things come up or have
changes of heart that render the dance lessons unimportant.
That averages out to 60 problems a month
which averages out to two unhappy customer emails a day.
For example they break up with a boy friend or their job suddenly takes
them out of town or they twist an ankle.
My question is, why do these people believe the changes in their lives
give them the right to expect their money back?
We post our rules at the studio entrance. We post our rules behind the
Registration Desk. We post our rules in two restrooms. We post the Refund
and Partner Switching rules on every registration receipt. We post our
rules on the SSQQ Web Site.
Ms. SS, the person who wrote this letter,
had already had a 15-minute conversation on the phone with one of our
Registrars who told them that they were not due a Refund in this
situation. But since the person refused to take "no" for an answer, they
were advised to take their case to the highest level - me.
Then like any college student preparing to write a
paper, Ms. SS even took the time to review what I said on the web
site ("I have read your refund policies on-line but am unsure about what
the options are regarding my situation"). After reading our Refund Policy,
she saw the line in the sand and knew full well
that our official position wasn't in her favor.
But she went ahead and asked for a Refund
anyway. Like I said, the attitude was that it
never hurts to ask.
But it does hurt! I can feel myself getting less
sympathetic and more closed-minded by the day! I hate getting so
hard, but when the porcupine keeps poking you with its needles daily, you
have to make a choice - either bleed to death or develop a thick skin.
Her letter frustrated me a great deal.
Ms. SS made it obvious I could write a Refund
Policy longer than "Gone With the Wind" and it wouldn't make any
difference. She would still disregard all of it and
say, "Can I have a Refund?"
Ms. SS taught me a lesson I will never forget for the
rest of my life.
how much I write (about nine articles so far), no
matter well I say it, no matter how many examples I offer, people are still going
to ask for the Refund anyway.
WHY DO STUDENTS EXPECT SSQQ TO REFUND THEIR MONEY
WHEN THEY CHANGE THEIR MIND?
It has been a recurring theme throughout
this article that some of our students change their minds from time to
time. After 25 years of running a "Service Business", if there is
one thing I have learned, it is that people
change their minds.
Please don't misunderstand. I think it is okay for
people to change their minds. I change my mind all the time and so does my
Speaking of Marla, two years ago, Marla decided she wanted to be beautiful
at her wedding, so she joined a nearby Bally's Fitness Center. She
signed a three-year contract in December 2003.
Marla attended exercise classes at Bally's religiously for six months and
got into terrific shape. It worked! We were married in September
2004. In my opinion, Marla looked terrific!
Unfortunately almost immediately after the wedding, problems showed up on
our doorstep. First Marla's sales rep job almost ended when her two top
lines were terminated. Her job was saved when her company restructured at
the last minute and basically gave her another woman's job as well.
Suddenly Marla's job was more or less "doubled" at less salary. Great.
More work at less pay. But since she still had a year to go on her
daughter's college tuition, Marla plugged away.
Shortly thereafter my Number One employee at the studio suddenly quit
without warning. Helping me to overcome a major emergency, Marla assumed
the financial responsibilities keeping the books and doing the payroll.
Then two months later my Number Two employee at the studio quit. Marla
assumed her duties handling the Registration.
Then three months later one of my top instructors quit to move to Austin.
Marla assumed one of her duties teaching private lessons to people getting
Plus Marla continued to grow her side business as a cruise travel agent.
And the point is? The point is that Marla currently has five jobs.
She works constantly. (2006 Update: after I wrote
this article, Hurricane Rita came along and made her life as the Travel
Agent of record a living hell for two solid months.
RHAPSODY. Then a cancer scare at the same time and forced a
month of worry before she could have the surgery in November that showed
she was okay after all. But she ripped her rotator cuff just days after
the surgery and had to lay up for most of December. Things were
tough for BOTH of us in 2005.)
Recently I asked Marla about Bally's since she hasn't been in nearly a
year. When would she find the time? Marla smiled and said she will
go back when she gets her five jobs under control. She said she has a
long-term plan. Then she added that she still pays $25 a month on
I raised my eyebrow. I didn't know this. I thought it was month-to-month
like my business. I smiled. Does this mean Marla is paying $25 a
month for a "Service" she doesn't use?
I asked her why she doesn't get her money back. After all, it wasn't her
fault all these people quit their jobs at the studio. Why not go tell
Bally's how things beyond her control have prevented her from working out?
Marla smiled and said, "Just because my life changed and right now I am
too busy to work out is no excuse to break my contract. I will go back
someday, I promise."
(I smiled just now. As I was sitting at the
computer giving this article its 2006 update, Marla just came a few
minutes ago to give me a kiss before she returned to Ballys today for
the first time since we got married in September 2004. She had no idea
what I was doing so rest assured we didn't plan it this way. Then
I got to this part of the article and raised an eyebrow. Now THAT
is a funny coincidence.)
THE FINAL WORD
Love is Rare,
Life is Strange,
In other words, things change in people's lives and
people change their minds.
The problem for me is that every time
they want it to become my problem too.
If you change your mind or something comes, we will reschedule your
class if you ask us to, but we won't give your money back.
A Deal is a Deal.
Use it or Lose it.
RA May 2005
THE FINAL WORD
After all the negativity written about in this article
it might help to put things in perspective. Here is a parting
thought - Did you know the vast majority of our customers think SSQQ
is a pretty nice place?
This letter sums it pretty well.
From: Manuel Angulo
Sent: Tuesday, August 31, 2004 1:20 PM
I just read the complaints section.
I agree with you, it is impossible to satisfy all of the people all of
the time. Many people in this world are looking for more or wondering
why they got less.
It must be very difficult to operate a business these days.
My personal experience at SSQQ has been amazingly good. I have found a
new group of friends and have enjoyed a wonderful challenging pastime. I
am fortunate to have started my learning at your studio through Leisure
I have been to several other places in town and none has the open
friendly attitude present at SSQQ.
I will be forever in your debt. Take care and know there is at least a
one person that is very satisfied with the way that you choose to
operate your studio.